Birth of the Blues Johnny Carson Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack in Las Vegas

I remember watching the Rat Pack when I was just a little (real little) girl and my dad, Dick Kastel, was playing sax in the orchestra.

Here Johnny Carson is singing with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. and he wasn't taking any 'crap' from them either!  He fit right in.

Las Vegas was a different town back then. Getting guys on one stage together!

It was an amazing time to be growing up in Las Vegas!

 

 

 

Las Vegas Writers Conference

The Las Vegas Writer's Conference was here this weekend and I enjoyed meeting and learning from each and every one of our authors, agents and publishers including:

New York Times Best-Seller Bob Mayer, Author of over 40 books including Warrior Writer: From Writer to Published Author & Chasing the Ghost

Dennis Griffin, Author of 10 books including Cullotta: the biography of former Chicago and Las Vegas mobster Frank Cullotta

Judi Moreo Motivational Speaker & Author of 9 books including You are More Than Enough: Every Woman's Guide to Purpose, Passion, and Power

Maxwell Alexander Drake, Author Farmers & Mercenaries

Megan Edwards, Author Roads from the Ashes: An Odyssey in Real Life on the Virtual Frontier

Dan Decker, Author Anatomy of a Screenplay

Geoff Schumacher, Author Howard Hughes: Power, Paranoia & Palace Intrique

Maralys Wills, Author of 12 books including Manbirds: Hang Gliders & Hang Gliding

Margaret Dalrymple, Author & Publisher

Leslie Hoffman, Writer & Editor

Brandi Bowles, Literary Agent (Foundry Literary & Media)

Ginger Clark, Literary Agent (Curtis Brown, LTD)

Jami Carpenter, ghostwriter and editor (Stephens Press & American Book Publishers)

Lynn Pisar, Director of Operations (Books in Motion).

Thank you to all of the authors, agents and publishers and especially to Jo A. Wilkins, President of the Henderson Writer's Group and all the members who made it possible.

To Learn More:

http//www.hendersonwritersgroup.com

http//www.lasvegaswritersconference.com

 

"Writing is the author's vehicle into your world..."

Sandy Kastel, Author Life Choices: Navigating Difficult Paths 'Detours'

It's All About The Music

It’s All About The Music
Written by Sandy Kastel

 

"It's all about the music," I told him as we sat in the Starbucks in Franklin, TN. "This time I want to record 'my' songs. Don't get me wrong. I love singing the standards I grew up listening to." I paused to take a sip of my chai tea.

The room was filled with people in meetings, on their computers, making deals and writing songs or screenplays. Behind the counter the employees were taking orders, making coffee and dishing out delectable sugary confections, hustling to keep the line moving. "Are you willing to get songs from other writers?"

He stirred his grande latte with the stir stick, then licked it with his tongue, his cigarette resting on the edge of the ashtray. I couldn't believe they hadn't enforced the no smoking policy here, yet. "I'm open to it as long as there are some of mine on the album." I was no dummy. I knew what he meant. Was I going to insist on putting only my original songs on the album? Of course, not. That would be a deal breaker and I knew it. So I kept the door open. I wanted to work with him. He was well respected in the industry and I knew in my heart he would be good for me.

"Alright," he said. "When do you want to get started?" He finished off the last bit of his coffee and put the cap back on the cup, gathering up the wrapping from his apple crumb dessert. "I'm ready!" I closed my day-timer and got my purse off the back of my chair.

"Well, okay, let's talk tomorrow and schedule a meeting for next week." With that we both stood and walked towards the door. I thanked the guy behind the counter as we walked past. As I looked around the room I felt an extra bounce in my walk. Finally, I was going to get the chance for my songs to be heard.

This is an excerpt from one of my stories in an upcoming book. Another one of my stories is featured in Life Choices: Navigating Difficult Paths, an inspirational book with stories from 26 authors. It was a great experience being part of a group project, especially working with Judi Moreo, award-winning motivational speaker and author of 9 books, who brought us all together. I look forward to working with her again.

Sandy Kastel, Recording Artist and Author Life Choices: Navigating Difficult Paths

My Mom and Tammy Wynette

When I was a little girl my mom played Tammy Wynette records on our phonograph player and we sang along. Stand by Your Man and D-I-V-O-R-C-E were the two songs I remember the most. I would belt out the lyrics when I sang, just like Tammy.

She was a huge influence on me growing up, the way she sang she represented a strong woman, who set an example for women everywhere, both by 'standing by her man' to 'standing up for herself' when the times got rough.

 

I'll always remember her in my heart and in my songs that reflect a woman's feelings of frustration, defiance and determination, a few of which will be on my new album "Indiana Rain", due out this May.

 

Sandy Kastel, Author and Recording Artist

Life Choices: Navigating Difficult Paths 'Detours'

 

Tammy Wynette
May 5, 1942 – April 6, 1998

Tammy Wynette was rightfully known as the “First Lady of Country Music” due in part to her domination of the country music charts during the late ’60s and early ’70s. With hits like “Stand By Your Man,” and “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” she personified female country singers of the era. Her songs reached the top of the country music charts 17 times and earned her two Grammys. In 1969, Wynette married George Jones, with whom she had several more hits as his duet partner. A couple little know facts about Wynette were that she was a stand-out basketball player in high school, and that she renewed her cosmetology license every year so she’d have something to fall back on. She was also the voice of Hank Hill’s mother on King Of The Hill. As is generally the case with country stars of the ’60s and ’70s, Wynette’s popularity waned in the ’80s, but she found a new popularity in 1991 when she teamed up with British electronic band the KLF on “Justified And Ancient (Stand By The JAMs)”,  a number one hit throughout much of the world. A couple years later, she joined forces with Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn for the great Honky Tonk Angels album. Wynette suffered from numerous health problems throughout her life resulting in over two dozen major surgeries. Her body finally gave in on April 6, 1998, when she died in her sleep from a pulmonary blood clot.

 

 

Sandy Kastel Blog on Ruth Brown

Sandy Kastel Blog talks about meeting Ruth Brown on The Music's Over (but the songs live on)

March 21, 2010 at 1:45 pm

 

When I met Ruth we were both appearing on the Dennis Bono Show. She was gracious and funny and I could tell she was ‘bawdy’ in her day. She was a special person and it was such a joy to listen to her sing even when she had to sit in the chair on stage due to weakness. I was happy that they did the tribute to her in Nashville, cause as she told the story she had been performed once when she was a lot younger.

Years later, after her show, a couple of women approached her for an autograph. They pulled out a cd that referenced her performances in Nashville. She said I never even knew that record had been made! Apparently it was made without her permission or knowledge and released in Europe. “That’s the way the music business goes”, she said, “You never know who’s making money off you even if it ain’t you!” Then she told me, “Keep singing. Do what you love and don’t worry about what anyone else does. Just keep doing what you love, ‘cuz that’s the only thing that really matters in the end.”

I saw Ruth perform a few more times after that at the Bootlegger. She sat in the chair most of the performance, but when she sang, the whole room knew who was in charge. We miss you, Ruth.

Sandy Kastel, Recording Artist and Author, Life Choices: Navigating Difficult Paths ‘Detours’

The first time I met Buddy Rich

 

As Seen on The Music's Over (but the song lives on)

"The first time I meet Buddy Rich was when my dad, Dick Kastel was playing with the Harry James Band. My father had moved us from Mesquite, TX to Las Vegas, where he would be joining the group. They were going to Disneyland to play on one of the stages and my dad brought my sister, Linda and me along with him. My mom couldn’t go because my youngest sister, Crystal, was less than a year old.

We stayed at the Rip Van Winkle Motel across from Disneyland. All the band members went swimming in the pool along with my sister and me. Buddy was funny, always joking with all the guys, picking us up out of the water and throwing us back in the pool. We would hold our noses to keep the water out. We had so much fun that day. Then at night we went to Disneyland with Dad. We got to go on some of the rides, but mostly we watched the band set up and practice before the performance that night. Lots of people sat or stood around to watch the band. The stars were shining in the sky and the music went everywhere in the open air.

I’ll never forget that trip to Disneyland with the Harry James Band and Buddy Rich."

 

Sandy Kastel, Recording Artist and Author Life Choices: Navigating Difficult Paths 'Detours'


 

Finding Inspiration: Listen to Your Dreams

Finding Inspiration: Listen to your Dreams

I always keep a pen and notebook by my bed so when I wake up in the morning I can capture ideas from my dreams. Here’s a perfect example.

I am on stage with Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox. We are rehearsing for a show and Brad Pitt runs into the theater, up the aisle and jumps on stage. “Do you need anything from the store?” He picks me up like I’m a rag doll and swings me around planting a big kiss on my lips. My face must be burning red because I can hardly breath! I look into his baby blues and melt when Tina brings me back to reality, “Alright, that's enough, you, two! I have to wait till I get home to get any.” Brad grins and my knees go weak. Whose wouldn't?

In this dream there is enough for the start of a story. It is being told in first person with a specific setting, the public figures (whose names would be changed) and a love interest. Let’s continue…

Reba pokes her head in from upstage. Her hair has grown out and she's wearing a top from her new line. "What's shaking, ladies? We gonna have some fun tonight?" Aretha leans back relaxing in her favorite red leather chair. "We've got all the basics covered. All we need to know is when you and Dolly are going to bring out the big guns.” In walks Dolly from stage right, her arms full of freshly baked goodies as we rush to help her. Once we settle in the green room, she looks around for her chair. "Well, how y'all doin'? I made my favorite recipe for double chocolate chip cookies. I sure hope you love eatin’ 'em as much as I love makin' 'em." The table is dwarfed now by the platters piled high with chocolate chip cookies, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. “This is my momma’s recipe for fried chicken. And honest to goodness, it’s the best fried chicken North of the Mason Dixon Line”. As everyone gathers around the table she throws her hands up in the air. “I may have overdone it a little, but I wanted to make sure you girls had a good home-cooked meal tonight. Now, who wants to say grace.”

The characters begin to develop as the roles they play in the story. Dreams are a hotbed of ideas when you pay attention. Even if you are not planning to write a story about the characters in your dreams, there may be elements that might be mined from the texture woven into your subconscious mind while you are sleeping. What is it they say? If you drill a ton of ore, you might find an ounce of gold? If you can find one nugget like that you can build upon it and soon you will have a gold mine! The important thing is to use the tool. It’s a gift so accept it and honor it. Over time you might find a whole new resource for your novels.

If you are diligent and patient you can watch it grow.
Now let’s get back to the dream…

Annie Lennox leans over and gives Dolly a big hug then Reba chirps in, “Come on you, two. We better hurry up before the fellas get here or there won’t be a leg to lick on.” They all laugh while dishing up their plates. As the other women are eating and talking, Dolly brings her plate over and sits next to me on the couch. “Hey, darlin', how you holdin' up?" she leans in close. "You're gonna do just fine, little lady. Don't you worry about a thing. You got your sisters here and we aren't gonna let you get in any trouble. Besides, we're just here to have fun!"

I’m getting reassurance from a woman who created an image for the world to see that has made her a fortune and she is one of the smartest business woman who used her image wisely to get what she wanted so that she was the one running her own career.

"20 minutes to show time, Ladies.” “Thats our cue,” Annie says as she jumps to her feet, sleek and slim in her jumpsuit. We take a few minutes to finish up and form a circle. As we join hands Aretha turns her head skyward. "God, thank you for bringing us all together for this special event and welcome our sister into our circle of love. Give her strength to trust in you, again. Shine your light on her as she makes her debut. Praise the Lord. Amen!” We all chime in. "Let’ go have fun!

"...and now, Ladies and Gentlemen, let's give a warm welcome to our next performer direct from broadway…” I don’t hear the rest of it. My stomach is turning summersaults. I shake it off, listen to the rhythm of the music. The curtain goes up and I am the luckiest person in the world to be able to do what I love!

That's what every day is like when I am writing and performing. When the ideas come and I can let them come out and capture the essence of it, watching the idea grow from an idea and take shoe over time till it finally is ready to be heard. Then it has a life of its own. I've done my part. Then I have to just let go and see what happens with it. You give it room to grow. You nurture it. Just like a child, an idea is a mysterious creature, full of life, but you don't know how it will develop. I do my best to stay out of my way and be open to the process instead trying to make anything happen or conform to my rules. Then it can really blossom. That's how I write.

Sometimes I just get a couple of words or a picture. For me these images mean something special. To you they might represent a totally different sceneraio.

Here we have a story in a setting with two of my idols, plus a love interest.

Reba pokes her head in from upstage. Her hair has grown out and she's wearing one of the tops from her new line. "What's shaking, ladies? We gonna have some fun tonight?" Aretha leans back relaxing in her favorite red leather chair. "We've got all the basics covered. All we need to know is when you and Dolly are going to bring out the big guns.” In walks Dolly from stage right, her arms full of freshly baked goodies as we rush to help her. Once we settle in the green room, she looks around for her chair. "Well, how y'all doin'? I made my favorite recipe for double chocolate chip cookies. I sure hope you love eatin’ 'em as much as I love makin' 'em." The table is dwarfed now by the platters piled high with chocolate chip cookies, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. “This is my momma’s recipe for fried chicken. And honest to goodness, it’s the best fried chicken North of the Mason Dixon Line”. As everyone gathers around table she says, “I may have overdone it a little, but I wanted to make sure you gals had a good home-cooked meal tonight. Now, let’s say grace.”

We have additional characters and from each there is a picture of their personality. As you can see these are pretty straight forward images. But that’s not the point. The point is that someone is sending you messages. You can study them, you can learn from them and you can use them as a writing tool. What is it they say? If you drill a ton of ore, you might find an ounce of gold? If you can find one nugget like that you can build upon it and soon you will have a gold mine! The important thing is to use the tool. It’s a gift so accept it and honor it. If you are diligent and patient you can watch it grow.

Sandy Kastel, Author
Life Choices: Navigating Difficult Paths ‘Detours’